As the frigid remnants of winter begin to fade, swap heavy reds for refreshing whites that will put a little spring in your step. Madeline Triffon, master sommelier and wine event director for Plum Market, has suggestions for those seeking to shake up their wine lineup this season.
Hour Detroit: What direction would you steer a Pinot Grigio fan seeking something different?
Madeline Triffon: I’m Greek, so what immediately comes to mind is Greek dry whites from the island of Santorini, made from a type of grape called Assyrtiko and another one called Athiri. Santorini whites have this fabulous minerality and inorganic rockiness that’s kind of like sea spray or river rock.
Any other “must-try” unique varietals?
Albariño from northwestern Spain and Gruner Veltliner from Austria. [With Albariño], you get a little bit of a muscular, rich, full-bodied sense on the palate, along with a nice, firm acidity. [Gruner Veltliner] often has a character of ginger, but also white radish — and it’s very refreshing and a little bit of a cleansing. And don’t forget Viognier, which is highly aromatic. It smells like a flower garden, but it’s not sweet.
How about recommendations for a familiar varietal, but from a lesser-known source?
Try an Italian Sauvignon Blanc from the northeast — either Collio or Trentino-Alto Adige — I’ve been stunned by some of them.
What’s your recommended “value” white?
For porch pounders, it is impossible to beat the value of South African dry Chenin Blanc.
Is there a white varietal that doesn’t receive the level of attention it deserves?
When I do consumer events, I’m on a mission: I try to shoehorn a dry Riesling in there from somewhere, be it Australia or Michigan or Germany. Riesling still suffers from a perception that is not true. Dry Riesling is wonderfully aromatic, and a surprise when people taste it.
What about for rosé lovers?
They are not inexpensive, but there are gorgeous rosés from Corsica.
Which local wines would you recommend for spring?
If you are not paying attention to Michigan Pinot Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and dry Riesling, you’re not serving yourself. I think consumers can be gleeful in buying high-quality wines from Michigan that are appropriate for springtime.
What’s your personal go-to springtime wine?
I’ll be obsessed with Mâcon until I die, because I love white Burgundy, and Mâcon Blanc gives me that satiny smooth essence of Chardonnay.
Plum Market hosts weekly tastings at the West Bloomfield and Ann Arbor North Campus stores. For more information, visit plummarket.com.
Cortney Casey is a certified sommelier and co-founder of michiganbythebottle.com, a website and online community that promotes the Michigan wine industry. She’s also co-owner of Michigan By the Bottle Tasting Room, tasting rooms, which are operated in partnership with multiple Michigan-based wineries, located in Shelby Township, Royal Oak, and Auburn Hills.